On Wednesday, the Italian green, white and red were draped across the 2020 Universal Exposition to celebrate Italy National Day. Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio made his way to Dubai to partake in the occasion, marked by an opening ceremony in the Al Wasl Plaza – Expo’s epicentre – that included the Emirati and Italian national anthems, flag-raisings and a concert by the Arma dei Carabinieri, part of Italy’s police forces.
The world fair dedicated the entire day to Italy through a series of cultural and business events, high-level institutional meetings and guided tours centred around Expo’s Italian pavilion. “We believe that the beauty generated in Italy by the creativity of our people is reflected in our manufacturing and in scientific and technological innovation,” remarked Mr Di Maio.
All in all, Italy is having an excellent run in Dubai. On Tuesday the Italian pavilion surpassed half a million visitors since the beginning, while welcoming a steady 10,000 daily, which makes it one of “the most appreciated,” remarked the Italian chief of diplomacy, who seized the opportunity to relaunch Rome’s candidacy to host 2030’s Expo.
Alongside Mr Di Maio at the opening ceremony were Paolo Glisenti, Commissioner-General for the Italian Pavilion, and Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, the United Arab Emirates’ Minister for Tolerance and Coexistence, who remarked the “deep friendship” between the UAE and Italy – which he called a “reliable partner” – and expressed “appreciation” for Rome’s “unique participation” in the world fair. The weight of these words is accentuated when considering the recent diplomatic tensions between the two countries, seemingly resolved by now.
Expo 2020 is acting as a veritable storefront for Italy’s industries and export which, as the Italian diplomat remarked, is doing exceedingly well this year with a record-breaking projected 500bn. “The UAE and Italy have an excellent level of partnership in bilateral trade and investment,” remarked the Italian diplomat; “with a foreign direct investment stock of €330 million in 2020, the UAE is the first investor in Italy among the Gulf countries.”
Indeed, the region is proving to be a growing market for the Italian aerospace and defence industry, with the UAE first and foremost. Among the main attractions in the Italian pavilion, for instance, is Leonardo/AgustaWestland’s new convertiplane, the AW609, a helicopter-aeroplane hybrid capable of vertical takeoff and landing, plus levitating mid-air, as well as long-distance flight. During his trip Mr Di Maio also visited Casa Agusta, Leonardo and Falcon Aviation’s new helicopter hub in Dubai.
The UAE’s increased relevance in this sector has been further highlighted by the visit of US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, who on November 21 travelled to the country and met with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan to “reaffirm the importance of the US-UAE strategic partnership,” according to a Pentagon readout. The country was vital during NATO’s operations of withdrawal from Afghanistan and is a long-standing host of US armed forces, for which Mr Austin conveyed his appreciation.
The sale of 50 F-35 stealth fighter jets are at the centre of a negotiation between the US and the UAE, which includes the latter’s “obligations” according to Washington – within the limits of its sovereignty, according to Abu Dhabi – and branches out to the Emirati use of Chinese 5G infrastructures. President Biden has signalled he wants to move forward with the deal, which he inherited from the previous administration and followed the improved relations between Israel and the UAE under the Abraham Accords.
Photo: Expo 2020 Italian Pavilion on Twitter (@ItalyExpo2020)